Environmental

Maine Modernizing State Mining Regulations

Maine Modernizing State Mining Regulations

 

On November 19, 2012, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced it was hiring a Michigan firm and Maine subcontractor to update state mining rules that have not been changed in decades. 

The Michigan firm, North Jackson Company, is an environmental and engineering firm located in the Marquette Mineral District.  The firm will work with the state DEP over the next 18 months to make changes and provide environmental insight to the mining rules that have not been changed in 20 years.  The changes are required by a bipartisan law passed by the state’s 125th Legislature. 

The North Jackson Company received a $175,000 contract because they have experience in mineral mining regulations.  They have also helped the state of Michigan make changes to their old mining rules.  The Maine subcontractor, S.W. Cole Engineering, Inc., with provide consulting in geotechnical engineering, Maine environmental regulations, and landscape information to the Michigan firm. 

DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho emphasized that minerals can be recovered in a way that is environmentally sound for the air, land and water—as long as the state’s minding rules are updated.

She also stated: “Our selection of partners with reputations for providing reliable technical information through rigorous science that allows their clients to make sound environmental management decisions demonstrates this process is one we take seriously. We look forward to working with the North Jackson Company and S.W. Cole as we undertake this important work together.”

After the legislature and DEP agreed to update mining rules, a large number of advertisements were sent to members of the National Mining Association and Interstate Mining Compact.  The North Jackson Company was selected because they were the most qualified. 

The updated rules will address surface water protection and waste rock management as well as ensure that all proposed mining operations prove financially reasonable environmentally and for state citizens. 

Commissioner Aho continued: “DEP’s promise is that as this process moves forward, it will be thoughtful and transparent and if mining activity is carried out in Maine as a result of these regulatory updates, it will be done in a responsible, respectful way that helps Maine and its citizens receive the benefits of the resource while also guaranteeing that environmental protections are upheld and subsequent remediation and closure is adequate.”

More information about the updates can be found on the websites of the Maine DEP, North Jackson Company, or S.W. Cole Engineering. 

Source: Maine Department of Environmental Protection

U.S. Carbon Emissions Fall to Nearly 20-Year Lows

U.S. Carbon Emissions Fall to Nearly 20-Year Lows

New figures show that, energy-saving technologies and a concerted effort in renewables have led to the overall reduction in climate pollution. This drops in climate pollution—even as the U.S. Congress fails to act on climate change in a broad spectrum—brings the United States more than halfway towards President Barack Obama’s goal.

The United States’ carbon dioxide emissions in 2012 fell to their lowest levels since 1994, according to various environmental reports.

Carbon dioxide emissions in the United States fell by 13% in the last five years, due to new energy-saving technologies and a two-fold increase in the practice of renewable energy resources, as confirmed by the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Commission for the Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

This reduction in climate pollution brings the United States more than halfway towards President Obama’s target of reducing emissions by 17% from 2005 levels over the next decade.

By the end of 2012, the United States’ emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases had fallen nearly 11% from the 2005 levels. This drop puts President Barack Obama in a better position to defend his environmental policies and achievements, which often go overlooked in the bitter realm of climate science. Moreover, such statistics may bolster America’s standing with global climate regulations.

Lisa Jacobson, acting President of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, said these findings exposed the conservative argument that acting on climate change would hinder the economy—carbon emissions are declining while GDP is rising.

The dramatic decrease in Carbon emissions is attributed to the country’s shift in energy production—Coal fell to 18% in 2012 from 22.5% in 2007 of the nation’s energy mix, and oil use also declined.

Thanks to fracking, natural gas production filled the majority of this gape—the United States received 31% of its electricity from gas-fired plants in 2012.

The report also noted that steadily expanding installations of solar, wind, hydro and geothermal energies have led to the significant drop in Carbon emissions. Renewables represented the largest source of new growth last year, reaching $44 billion.

Over this timeframe, total energy use fell by 6.4% since 2007. The bulk of emissions cut were largely due to installing more efficient cooling and heating systems in commercial locations. Other cuts in emissions came from transport, as 488,000 Americans purchased plug-in or hybrid vehicles.

This mix of energy sources proves that the economy can grow as our reliance on carbon-emitting gases declines.

New Investment in Small Modular Reactor Design and Use

New Investment in Small Modular Reactor Design and Use

 

On November 20, 2012, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced it was awarding support for the design and licensing of small modular reactors with the United States.  The strategy is parallel with the Obama Administration’s strategy to access every possible source of energy in the United States. 

The funding was announced in March of 2012, and the DOE has just announced the recipient of the award.  The project is led by Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) along with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel.  If strategies stay the same, the DOE plans to solicit other companies and manufacturers to focus on developing small modular reactor designs and operations. 

The investment from the DOE to B&W will help the company receive Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing requirements and begin commercial operations by 2022.  The small modular reactor project will first occur in Tennessee, but the DOE plans to help operations in Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.  All of the projects will help U.S. utilities receive power from low carbon sources while increasing export opportunities and U.S. dominance in the world energy market. 

Secretary Chu stated: “The Obama Administration continues to believe that low-carbon nuclear energy has an important role to play in America’s energy future.  Restarting the nation’s nuclear industry and advancing small modular reactor technologies will help create new jobs and export opportunities for American workers and businesses, and ensure we continue to take an all-of-the-above approach to American energy production.” 

The recent projects stands as the first-ever government investment in the design, implementation, and licensing of small modular reactors.  The DOE will invest in about half of the project’s total cost through a five-year cost-share agreement.  Babcock & Wilcox will provide the other half of investment, but the specific amounts toward the project are still being decided by the DOE and B&W. 

Small modular reactors are about one-third the size of traditional nuclear power plants.  The smaller designs increase safety and offer more economically benefits over large nuclear plants.  Also, the small modular reactors can be manufactured at factories then transported to the sites were they can basically be plugged in.  The designs decreased capitol costs and construction costs for nuclear energy. 

Small modular reactors have other benefits as well.  Large reactors cannot be used on some small grids, while small modular reactors can provide power to small grids in a cost-effective way.  The reactors allow greater flexibility for utilities as demands grow. 

Source: Department of Energy

Environmental Protection Agency to Award $569 Million in Funding to Areas Impacted by Hurricane Sandy

Environmental Protection Agency to Award $569 Million in Funding to Areas Impacted by Hurricane Sandy

 

 
The United States Environmental Protection Agency announced that will provide grants of $340 million to New York and $229 million to New Jersey for improvements to drinking water treatment facilities that were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. These funds will help storm-ravaged communities in both states as they continue to rebuild and recover from the damage caused by the super storm on October 29th of last year. 
In the aftermath of the super storm, drinking water and wastewater treatment centers in New Jersey and New York were so badly damaged that some could not treat raw sewage or provide safe drinking water to their residents. The funding announcements will give states the ability to further reduce the risks of flood damage and increase the resilience of drinking water and wastewater facilities to withstand the effects of severe storms like Hurricane Sandy. 
 
“As communities continue to rebuild and recover following the storm, it is crucial that their efforts to rebuild infrastructures such as drinking water and wastewater facilities are approached in a sustainable manner,” said the EPA’s Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe. “This money is a crucial step in the administration’s ongoing effort to provide aid to New Jersey and New York so they can recover and move forward in a way that ensures local communities are stronger than ever.”
 
“As extreme weather is increasingly becoming the norm, the United States Congress wisely provided these funds to make sure our drinking water and wastewater facilities can withstand storms the size of Hurricane Sandy,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judit Enck. “These funds will help vulnerable communities in New York and New Jersey become more resilient to the effect of weather change.”
 
The funds will be offered as grants to New York and New Jersey and roughly 40 percent of the funds will provided to New Jersey for both the Drinking Water and Clean Water Revolving fund programs. The determination of how the funds will be allotted to the states was based on the percentage of the population living in counties that were impacted by the storm. 
 
The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act provided the Environmental Protection Agency with $500 million for Clean Water Revolving Fund and $100 million for the Drinking Water Fund. 
 
 
Source: Environmental Protection Agency

United Kingdom Reaches Landmark Energy Policy Agreement

United Kingdom Reaches Landmark Energy Policy Agreement

 

On November 23, 2012, the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) reached a landmark decision to increase investor confidence and generate 250,000 jobs in the energy sector.  The decision, called the Electricity Market Reform (EMR) in the Energy Bill, will address electricity demands through low-carbon technologies in the United Kingdom as about 20 percent of the country’s generating capacity from conventional, carbon-based sources decrease over the next decade. 

The EMR hopes to give confidence to certain investors and create government contracts for about £110 billion in investments. 

The sections of the Energy Bill allow the following:

·   Create a government owned-company to give investors more confidence while investing in long-term contracts called “Contracts for Difference” for low-carbon electricity projects

·  Allows auctions for generating capacity from 2014 for the winter of 2018/2019 to make sure peak demand is addressed

·  Provides confidence to gas investors to make sure energy demands are addressed (Gas Generation Strategy published with Chancellor’s Autumn Statement)

·  Sets a target range for reducing carbon emissions by 2030

The UK’s Climate Change Committee will make suggestions in 2016 during the Fifth Carbon Budget to make sure target ranges are reached by 2030.  Until 2016, the government is providing tips to National Grid for different ways to reach lowered emissions ranges by 2030 and even reach target ranges by 2050 in the most economical way.  A sample approach for the UK 2050 carbon target is explained in the Fourth Carbon Budget. 

Edward Davey, the Energy and Climate Secretary, stated: “They [the Coalition Agreement decisions] will allow us to meet our legally binding carbon reduction and renewable energy obligations and will bring on the investment required to keep the lights on and bills affordable for consumers.” 

The decarbonization targets were set by the Climate Change Act of 2008.  Together with the decarbonization targets and government-issued contracts, about £9.8 billion in 2020 prices is set aside in the Levy Control Framework.  The budgeted investment by the government will decrease dependency on gas imports by establishing renewable energy.  By 2020, about 30 percent of the UK’s energy will come from renewables—compared to 11 percent in 2012.  The investment will also ensure power from new nuclear energy and commercialized carbon capture. 

Davey continued, “The decisions we’ve reached are true to the Coalition Agreement, they mean we can introduce the Energy Bill next week and have essential electricity market reforms up and running by 2014 as planned.”

The shift in public spending by the government, referred to as the Levy Control Framework (LCF), is the responsibility of the Treasury.  The spending meets energy and climate goals in line with economic recovery and the least impact on utility bills for consumers.

The spending does not include the ECO or the Warm Homes Discount in the UK.  These programs have separate spending limits for 2015. 

Source: Department of Energy & Climate Change

President Obama Responds to Devastating Tornados in Oklahoma

President Obama Responds to Devastating Tornados in Oklahoma

 

 
At least 24 people, including nine schoolchildren, were killed when a massive tornado hit an area outside Oklahoma City on Monday afternoon. 
 
At least seven of the children killed were students at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma. Emergency respondents today continued to sift through the school’s rubble in search of any survivors. 
 
The devastating tornado was 1.3 miles wide and move through Moore with winds that reached nearly 215 miles per hour. 
 
In response to the devastation, President Barack Obama told Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin that the administration, through FEMA, is committed to providing all the resources it can to the state of Oklahoma as the response effort unfolds. FEMA has already deployed an incident Management Assistance Team, a Medical Emergency Response Support Team and a number of Search & Rescue Teams to provide resources in those areas hit hardest by the natural disaster. 
 
FEMA is urging those in damaged areas to listen to instructions from their local school officials, and to take the recommended protective measures to stay safe. 
 
“Americans from every corner of this nation will be right here with the victims of this tragedy. We will open our homes and our hearts to those in need,” President Obama said. “We are a country that stands with our fellow citizens as long as the rebuilding process takes; we have seen this spirit in Joplin, in Tuscaloosa; and we saw this spirit in Breezy Point and Boston. This is what the people of Oklahoma are going to require from us right now.” 
 
As recovery and response efforts continue in Oklahoma, the United States Department of Homeland Security announced today that Secretary Janet Napolitano will travel to the devastated area tomorrow to meet with local and state officials to ensure first responders are receiving the resources they need to help those impacted by tornadoes. 
 
 
Source: whitehouse.gov

DE Industrial Productivity up 31%; Emissions Down 9%

DE Industrial Productivity up 31%; Emissions Down 9%

 

According to Delaware’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), industrial facilities throughout the state have considerably fallen since 2010.  Since 1990, industrial facilities throughout the state have reduced on-site releases of chemicals by 91 percent. 

TRI is required for certain industrial facilities in Delaware and the rest of the United States.  Title III, Section 313, of the Federal Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA 313) was passed in 1986 and required industrial facilities to start informing the public about toxic chemicals used around the communities.  Title III of SARA 313 is also called the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). 

During 2011, companies had to report statistics on the use of 593 individual chemicals and 30 chemical categories.  Individual chemicals include toxic and persistent compounds like mercury and other less serious chemicals, and the chemical categories include chemicals like dioxins, PCBs, and more. 

Manufacturing facilities, electric utilities run by oil and coal, and bulk petroleum companies are the most common companies required to submit a TRI.  Reporting is also necessary for companies with 10 or more employees, companies that manufacture or process over 25,000 pounds, or companies that use 10,000 pounds or more of toxic chemicals. 

The companies must report all chemicals that are released into the environment, managed on the site’s grounds, and managed off-site. 

In 2011, 63 different companies reported using 89 TRI-designated chemicals throughout Delaware.  About 3.9 million pounds of the TRI chemicals were released into the environment (2.4 million to the air, 1.2 million to the water, and 279,000 to the land).  Hydrochloric acid releases accounted for 66 percent of air releases, and the majority came from coal power plants. 

Total releases to the air decreased by 1.1 million pounds, or 31 percent.  Releases into the water actually increased by 630,000 pounds, and releases onto land increased by 68,000 pounds. 

Notable decreases in the release of hydrochloric acid were reported by NRG’s Indian River Power Plant and the Edge Moor/Hay Road Power Plant.

Carcinogen releases increased by 28,000 pounds (18 percent) in 2011, and the largest releases were reported by Formosa Plastics, River Power Plant, and the Delaware City Refinery. 

DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara stated:  “Productivity is up and emissions are down.  We are demonstrating in Delaware that we can have both a healthy environment and a strong economy – and we are committed to improving the environmental quality further by working with all industrial facilities to reduce toxic chemical emissions.”

Source: Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control

New York Waters Adopt Mandatory Lobster V-Notch Rules

New York Waters Adopt Mandatory Lobster V-Notch Rules

 

As of November 13, 2012, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) now requires lobster permit holders in Lobster Conservation Management Area (LMA) 4 to perform V-notching of legal, egg-bearing female lobsters.  Also, permit holders fishing in more than one LMA must abide by the strictest V-notch rules listed in their fishing permit. 

The Notice of Adoption announced by the DEC adopted the emergency rules instituted on July 11, 2012. 

The changes to the American Lobster Fishery Management Plan (FMP) were approved by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC).  The changes, referred to as Addendum XVII, hope to lower the lobster harvest by as much as 10 percent in the southern part of New England, an area that experienced a huge decrease of the lobster population in recent years.  The new rules now apply from Cape Cod to Virginia in LMA 2, 4, and 5. 

A triangular V-notch cut is placed on the tail fin of a legal female lobster bearing eggs.  It takes several molts for the cut to disappear, and the cuts help fisherman identify the lobsters.  It is illegal to take a V-notched lobster, and the female lobster is protected from harvesting for two whole years. 

Subsection (a) of §44.7 under the Environmental Conservation Law requires the V-notching in LMA 4 and states the following: “V-notches must be to the right of the center flipper as viewed from the rear of the female lobster when the underside of the lobster is down.  The V-notch should be made by means of a sharp bladed instrument, at least one quarter inch in depth and not greater than one half inch in depth and tapering to a sharp point.”

Subsection (b) of the same section requires fisherman to abide by specific V-notching rules in their LMA or the most restrictive rules if they have permits in more than one LMA.  The subsection goes on to state the following: “Any permitee who fails to designate an LMA on their application shall abide by the most restrictive of the LMAs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and Outer Cape Cod (OCC) V-notching rules.  The department shall provide license holders written notice of the current V-notching rules of LMAs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and OCC annually.”

Subsection (c) prohibits the possession or landing of V-notched female lobsters and applies to everyone except the final purchaser or consumer. 

Refer to §44.1 through §44.7 for all requirements on lobsters in New York LMAs. 

Source: New York Department of Environmental Conservation

PCBs Contribute to Significant Pregnancy Delays

PCBs Contribute to Significant Pregnancy Delays


On November 14, 2012, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported findings in a recent study that found high levels of PCBs can delay pregnancy for couples compared to couples with low amounts of the chemicals in their blood.


PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are mainly used as coolants and lubricants in electrical equipment, but they have other purposes as well.  They classify as persistent organochlorine pollutants, which is a group of chemicals including other industrial chemicals and some pesticides.  The NIH reports that chemicals resist decaying and can remain in the soil, water, and the food chain for decades.  


The health effects of PCBs have long been recorded, but few studies have examined how the chemicals affect the chance of pregnancy.  


During the study, called the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment (LIFE), 501 couples from Michigan and Texas were examined between 2005 and 2009.  The women were between 18 and 44, and all of the men were over the age of 18.  Blood samples were taken and examined for PCBs and PFCs, or perfluorochemicals.  The women were also required to keep journal entries of their menstrual cycle and results from home pregnancy tests, and the couples were followed as they tried for pregnancy up to a year.  


The study showed that the odds of pregnancy were reduced by 18 to 21 percent if females were exposed to significant levels of perfluorooctane sulfonamide and/or PCB congeners 118, 167, or 209.  Odds of pregnancy were reduced by 17 to 29 percent if males were exposed to DDE (created when DDT degrades in the environment) and/or PCB congeners 138, 156, 167, 170, 172, and 209.  


Other chemicals were not ruled out during the study, and the NIH admits that a combination of chemicals could lead to significant pregnancy delays.  Previous research by the LIFE study found that high levels of lead and cadmium in the blood can significantly delay pregnancy as well.  


Source: National Institutes of Health

Awards Aim to Reduce Pollution to Pacific Ocean

Awards Aim to Reduce Pollution to Pacific Ocean

 

On October 10, 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that $214,000 in grants is being provided to the Product Stewardship Institute, Inc. and the Monterey Bay Aquarium in order to reduce the amount of debris entering the oceans.  
 
The Product Stewardship Institute, Inc. is receiving $164,245 in order to begin a study on how to reduce disposable plastic packaging.  The study will occur on three California coastal universities.  The hope is to use the results to develop a model for other universities and fast-food corporations.  
 
The Product Stewardship Institute, Inc. is working to reduce single-use plastic bottles by 40 percent and polystyrene take-out containers often used by fast-food restaurants, dining halls, and student centers by 80 percent.  
 
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is receiving a $50,000 grant to train 100 teachers and 7,500 students to then lead local community projects that reduce the amount of plastic entering the ocean.  The grant will train K-12 teachers and teach the students about the causes and effects of plastic in the ocean.  The community action projects will then address coastal watersheds.  
 
The two projects are targeting plastics that enter waterways in parts of California that eventually gather or disintegrate and pose direct hazards to fish and other wildlife.  The EPA points to the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” as an example of what plastic pollution can do.  
 
The patch is two huge areas of floating plastic in the North Pacific.  The patches are made up of various forms of litter and debris like old fish nets and various plastic components.  The majority of plastic is in the form of tiny segments that has been broken down through a process called photodegradation.  
 
Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest, states: “Reducing waste at the source, rather than just cleaning it up, is the key to protecting our coastal waters.  These two projects are big steps forward to reducing the amount of trash that ends up in our rivers, oceans, and estuaries.” 
 
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency